Virtual reality is a fast-growing market globally. According to data, the VR market is worth over $12 billion, with the market expected to grow to $22 billion by 2025. This is while only 7% – 8% of the population is estimated to own a VR headset.
With the exponential growth of the VR market and the rapid adoption of immersive experiences by retail brands seeking to transform the consumer shopping experience, there’s growing concern about the environmental sustainability of VR heading into a heavily digitized future.
VR promises to help create a more sustainable environment by promoting sustainable infrastructure development, remote working and learning, and minimizing transport emissions through immersive virtual shopping experiences.
Here’s a look into VR and how technology can help improve environmental sustainability and educate people on climate change.
The Decarbonization of VR and Immersive Experiences
According to research, between 2010 and 2020, data center traffic has increased 9.4x while internet traffic has increased 16.9x. However, power consumption has only grown by 1.1x. With the exception of crypto mining, data centers only make up 1% of global electricity demand.
The efficiency gains in data centers powering VR experiences have mainly been attributed to the shift to hyper-scale data centers that large tech companies operate. These companies are incentivized to restrain energy costs and gain more capital to invest in optimal siting and continuous upgrades as the VR market grows.
Most of these hyper-scale infrastructures use clean power sources such as solar, providing substantial efficiency gains and significant reductions in the carbon footprint. In some locations, the data centers rely 100% on renewable energy.
How VR Can Help Improve Sustainability
Here are several compelling ways VR can help you and your brand improve sustainability.
Remote Working and Learning
Remote work is becoming more desirable for many brands and companies than traditional office work. With remote work, employees can get to work more efficiently, with your business requiring less physical office space to run operations.
Integrating VR into remote work allows you to add social interaction into your company’s remote working experience, a crucial missing piece in most remote work setups. Employees can meet in virtual meeting rooms where they can interact with each other and proactively discuss projects and ideas.
The metaverse can even allow employees to use unique avatars during virtual meetings, making social interactions more fun and productive while reducing the need for physical space and commuting.
Minimizing Transport Emissions
VR can help directly reduce transport emissions by reducing the commute made by employees and customers interacting with your business. According to data, U.S. workers take about 1.3 million business trips daily. Most customers take trips to a business’s store to physically shop for items they couldn’t get an immersive interaction with online.
Through social interactions in remote working, VR can reduce the number of business trips employees make to meet customers or have in-person meetings about particular projects.
For clients, immersive shopping experiences can significantly reduce the need to visit a store physically and check out specific products such as fashion and home décor items.
Through our virtual stores, brands such as Lancôme have managed to reduce the commute for their customers to their stores, allowing them to shop in a 3D environment where they can interact with products and get a better immersive feel of how they’ll fit them.
Understanding Climate Change Effects
VR is used in some scenarios to simulate environmental experiences and help users understand the adverse effects of climate change. Projects such as “This is Climate Change” virtually transport users into parts of the Earth where rising temperatures have significant ecological effects.
Users can virtually experience famine, wildfires, droughts, and deforestation, getting better education and understanding of the effects of climate change and emissions.
Other projects allow the users to experience the growth of forests from seedlings and watch the devastating effects of climate change and human activity, such as clear-cutting, forest fires, soil depletion, and erosion.
Sustainable Infrastructure Development
VR can be used in the construction industry to promote sustainable construction. Construction workers and professionals can use VR to make and visualize floor plans, identify errors, and address limitations as early as possible.
Construction professionals can also provide virtual walkthroughs of their projects to clients using VR, building their confidence and securing funding. Consequently, construction projects don’t get abandoned or restarted once launched, reducing waste and land destruction.
Moreover, brands can reduce their physical infrastructure needs using VR, lowering infrastructure development costs. For instance, brands can use virtual showrooms to reduce the physical space needed to set up a showroom, leading to less land usage and pollution from large-scale infrastructure projects.
According to data, 68% of the population will live in cities by 2050. Therefore, there’s a growing need to create sustainable and energy-efficient cities for the future.
Smart cities use technology to improve sustainability and energy efficiency. VR and the Internet of Things (IoT) can help improve health care, planning, and disaster preparedness.
Singapore is among the leading drivers of smart cities, having launched the Smart Nation initiative in 2014. The city runs multiple digital programs, including sustainable living initiatives which use smart water meters, survey drones, and smart urban planning to create a more sustainable city.
Start Making a Positive Environmental Impact
VR will significantly change the retail industry and how brands approach sustainability. It is a great tool to offer immersive shopping experiences and teach crucial sustainability lessons for a green future. Contact a virtual experiences expert today and learn how your brand can go green with VR.